Zero Waste - Recycling Like You've Never Seen It

Due to a decades-long trade embargo with the United States, which subsequently affected trade between Cuba and other countries, basic necessities can be impossible to find. This need has forced Cubans to improvise and find new, creative ways to solve everyday problems.

Restaurants operating out of small homes bake custard into the bottom halves of old aluminum beer cans and take-out restaurants serve fresh sugar cane juice in glasses made of sawed-off beer bottles. Homemade hot sauce and tomato puree are sold in Havana Club rum bottles. Fresh-squeezed limejuice is sold in old perfume bottles. Discarded individual portion-sized butter wrappers are washed and repurposed as wrappers for homemade chocolates and candies sold on the street. In Holguin, instead of paying $1 for a new cigarette lighter, “focforeras” repair and refill old lighters for 5 – 10 cents. Cubans bring their own Tupperware to take-out restaurants and their own honey jars, beer bottles, and water jugs to take-out shops and bars to be filled with homemade soda and beer, which is also served from recycles 1.5 liter soda bottles or repurposed plastic gasoline jugs. Disposable diapers are washed and hung in the sun to dry for re-use. The latch on the bathroom door is broken in the national park? No problem, loop an old hair band around the doorknob and a nail to keep it shut!

Used & washed disposable diapers drying before their next use in Baracoa, Guantanamo

Used & washed disposable diapers drying before their next use in Baracoa, Guantanamo

Restaurants bake custard into old beer cans in Holguin, Cuba

Restaurants bake custard into old beer cans in Holguin, Cuba

One of several cigarette lighter repairmen in Holguin, Cuba

One of several cigarette lighter repairmen in Holguin, Cuba

Sawed-off beer bottles now serve as "guarapo" (fresh sugar cane juice) glasses in Bayamo, Cuba

Sawed-off beer bottles now serve as "guarapo" (fresh sugar cane juice) glasses in Bayamo, Cuba

A cooler in Holguin, Cuba stashes individual flan cups baked into old soda cans

A cooler in Holguin, Cuba stashes individual flan cups baked into old soda cans

A bartender in Santa Lucia, Camaguey, pours beer from a jug from a recycled jug into a recycled bottle

A bartender in Santa Lucia, Camaguey, pours beer from a jug from a recycled jug into a recycled bottle

Tomato sauce served up in an old rum bottle in Baracoa, Guantanamo

Tomato sauce served up in an old rum bottle in Baracoa, Guantanamo